It’s clear that the underground metal scene is in terrific health and none more so than in the world of traditional metal; with countless bands honouring the sounds of classic metal and introducing a new generation to its myriad of delights!
But, how do you wade through a seemingly infinite number of releases, trying to find that hidden gem? Easy, we’ve done it for you…..and here’s our pick of the 8 must hear UK trad metal releases that celebrated 5 years of existence in 2023.
Presented in alphabetical order as opposed to any kind of ranking….
Blaze Bayley – The Redemption Of William Black (Infinite Entanglement Part III) [UK]
Released: March 2nd, 2018 via Blaze Bayley Recordings
The third chapter of Blaze Bayley’s Infinite Entanglement saga upped the epic ante as its varying tempos, insistent melodies and use of soundbites rendered The Redemption Of William Black (Infinite Entanglement Part III) truly cinematic and overwhelmingly effective.
Blaze Bayley‘s rich baritone was as powerful and emotive as ever, driving these melodic yet thundering tracks on in formidable fashion and while his power-tinged heavy metal will always recall Iron Maiden, here he excelled himself; delivering a climactic resolution to his trilogy and showing the world that he always has been, and always will be, so much more than a footnote in Maiden‘s history.
Besides, The Redemption Of William Black (Infinite Entanglement Part III) was a far more interesting album than the snooze-fest that was The Book Of Souls!
Any complaints regarding that last remark may be directed to the nearest Iron Maiden fan – which is evidently not us.
Blitzkrieg – Judge Not!
Released: April 27th, 2018 via Mighty Music
NWOBHM heroes Blitzkrieg returned with album numbering in 2018 and they were as blisteringly reliable as ever. The work of Brian Ross and his cohorts requires precious little backstory – with Blitzkrieg‘s standing in the pantheon of NWOBHM bands as assured now as it ever has been – so it was simply left to the music to do the talking.
With expected ferocity, these seasoned veterans went about their business of destroying ear-drums with crunchy riffs, pummeling drums and Brian Ross’ instantly recognisable holler providing another masterclass in time-honoured British heavy metal.
Quality all round, Judge Not! demanded to be judged…..and Blitzkrieg were still guilty of showing bands over half their age how this shit should be done!
Eliminator – Last Horizon
Released: March 23rd, 2018 via Dissonance Productions
These Steve Grimmett (Grim Reaper / Onslaught) approved UK trad metallers caused quite the commotion with their debut album Last Horizon.…and for bloody good reason!
Eliminator are an outstanding Priest meets Maiden sounding new breed of riff-merchants, picking up the eternal flame of British heavy metal and holding it aloft for all to see.
Epic, ambitious and in awe of the 80’s, it was quickly evident that Eliminator would take UK metal into the next decade with unwavering confidence and precocious talent….and 2022’s similarly outstanding Ancient Light stands as testament to that fact!
Judas Priest – Firepower
Released: March 9th, 2018 via Columbia Records
After a few misfires (Redeemer Of Souls was merely OK, Nostradamus was a bloated mess), it was more than a pleasure to hear that with Firepower, Judas Priest were back and firmly screaming for vengeance once again!
Kicking off with its full throttle title track, “Firepower” was an instant winner and it quickly became apparent that this veteran group of pioneering headbangers weren’t about to ride off quietly into the sunset. Like the bastard son of “Painkiller”, guitars slashed and scythed while bursts of double bass hit you hard in the gut, leaving you feeling like you’d just been jumped by Mike Tyson on a PCP binge. Next up was “Lightning Strike” and if you were worried that Priest’s infamous arena-friendly choruses had been jettisoned, you could rest easy. These lads can deliver this kind of massive song in their sleep but there was something more powerful about their delivery this time round, recalling the heady days of British Steel.
The most stripped-back, concise Priest album in decades, it’s safe to say that Firepower was the most satisfying Judas Priest album since Angel Of Retribution and, quite possibly, since 1990’s Painkiller. From the expected glorious dual guitar harmonies to rousing anthems such as “Rising From The Ruins”, and on to to the more sombre likes of “Traitors Gate”, Judas Priest sounded refreshed, revitalised and committed to delivering thrilling heavy metal for as long as people want to hear it.
Satan – Cruel Magic [UK]
Released: 7th September, 2018 via Metal Blade Records
These NWOBHM veterans have been flying high ever since their comeback in 2011 and with Cruel Magic, Satan‘s third album since reforming, they continued their trend for delivering nothing but the perfect mix of menace and melody.
Satan’s classic sound – warmly nostalgic and utterly authentic as opposed to passé – refuses to yield and their music invokes a timeless sense of wonder. The majority of Cruel Magic oozed warmth, with abrasive speed metal merging with something altogether more ‘classic’ in construct. Satan’s deep roots, tied to the heyday of 70’s Rock were writ large over songs which simultaneously lulled the senses before whiplashing into full on attack mode with little to no warning.
The sounds of traditional heavy metal will never die as long as Satan are still holding court!
Saxon – Thunderbolt
Released: February 2nd, 2018 via Silver Lining Music
Just over two years on from Battering Ram and the venerable – and always reliable – Saxon returned in 2018 with album number 22(!).
Between regularly putting out new music and touring their arses off, these NWOBHM overlords have been putting bands half their age to shame with both their work ethic and the sheer quality of their output….and 2018’s Thunderbolt was no exception!
While there were no major surprises with Thunderbolt – it’s a latter day Saxon album through and through which, if you’re a fan, (and if not, why not?), meant you were in for an ever-reliable treat – and while there was nothing to rival the speed of the likes of “Sacrifice” or “Atila The Hun”, fear not because there was still a bevy of fist pumping British heavy metal anthems on display; all with more hooks than a bunch of cenobytes on the hunt for new flesh!
Solstice – White Horse Hill
Released: Independently on February 21st, 2018
We’ve sung the praises of Solstice in the past (see the related content re. UK doom metal at the bottom of this review) and, despite knowing just how good this band can be, precious few of us were ready for the sheer magisterial beauty of this modern epic doom masterpiece.
“To Sol a Thane” is a song for the ages; superbly crafted, expertly played and a true representation of what can be achieved when artistry and muscular metal unite. Not that White Horse Hill was overtly ‘heavy’ merely for the sake of it. Far from it in fact, with multiple moments of semi-ambient folk acting as a counter-weight to the heavier likes of the title track. Case in point, when balanced by the tranquil and pastoral likes of “Beheld, A Man Of Straw”, the sheer heft of “Under Waves Lie Our Dead” only hit harder when cushioned by its softer surroundings.
Related content: UK Doom Metal’s 10 Finest Moments….
Wytch Hazel – II: Sojurn
Released: July 13th, 2018 via Bad Omen Records
With a sound that nostalgically recalled (and combined) the outstanding work of Necromandus, Pagan Altar and Thin Lizzy, Lancashire’s Wytch Hazel took full advantage of the goodwill garnered by their impressive debut, Prelude (2016), and spread their wings further on 2018’s exquisite follow-up, II: Sojurn.
This retro rock nugget of pure gold instantly took the listener back to an era of proto-metal potential, when bands were still fairly rooted in blues and folk rock but found themselves, perhaps inadvertently, galloping ever closer to full-blown metal. Like a lost treasure gathering dust in the attic, the experience upon hearing II: Sojurn was akin to re-connecting with a lost friend; warm, comforting, nostalgic and satisfyingly familiar.
Incredibly, the band only went and improved on this fine album with the release of III: Pentecost (2020) and 2023’s IV: Sacrament. Keep an eye on these guys – they’re the real fuckin’ deal!